When the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) was legally established on 27 December 1991, it was meant to pave the way for the establishment of strategic partnerships with new and established players in the industry to benefit from the vast resources of the country’s fisheries. Experts have described Namibia as having one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world, as its territorial water contains around 20 different species such as pilchard, anchovy and horse mackerel, as well as lobster, hake and monkfish.
However, while the fishing sector has grown to become the country’s second biggest export earner after mining, 30 years after Fishcor’s establishment, the company today is unfortunately synonymous with the now infamous Fishrot saga, where it was used as a conduit to funnel ill-gotten gains to a number of well-connected individuals.
In dealing with the fallout of the international bribery scandal and subsequent legal fracas that ensued, the current interim Fishcor board, now led by seasoned administrator Mihe Gaomab II, was given the mammoth task of trying desperately to save a sinking ship, and in the process to save as many valuable jobs as possible.
To lead the task, the Fishcor board assigned Ruth Herunga as interim CEOx to attend to pressing daily matters at the Seaflower Whitefish Corporation at Lüderitz. The board also appointed a production manager, advertised the position of company secretary, and has embarked on the recruitment of a substantive CEO.
“No one is left in top management, and the board is seized with the matter to address managerial obligations,” Gaomab said at the time.
In an exclusive interview with New Era, Herunga noted that the primary focus now is on a turnaround strategy for the troubled company to ensure sustenance of the workforce, improve operations, and make sure that the company is profitable.
“Whilst at it, we will continue informing the public of the positive progress that the company is making on a daily basis, which will ultimately contribute to the rebranding of the company so that we reclaim our position as the ‘leader in the catching, processing and marketing of Namibian fish products in local and international markets’”, she said.
Admitting that the company is not yet close to operating at optimal level, Herunga said production has already increased by 7% since she took over the reins.
“We still have many challenges, but the company is stable and moving forward”, she added.
She also confirmed that Fishcor recently sold a 3000mt quota, from which it made N$39 million that was used to pay salaries and cover monthly expenses.
And with this movement, Fishcor is overcoming the challenges one at a time after managing to get their accounts unfrozen by the central bank, and by securing attractive, fixed-term employment for workers.
Said Herunga: “We are very committed to taking care of our people. We have recently secured fixed-term employment contracts for ex-Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) workers in Walvis Bay, which include an attractive salary package as well as housing and transport allowances”.
She added that Fishcor`s long-term vision still remains to be a major player in the Namibian fishing industry and beyond.
“In order to achieve this vision, we will put in all our efforts to make sure our organisation remains focused, corruption-free and more results-oriented. Our commitment is to strive for excellence and drive sustainability of all our business operations”.
Herunga also praised the interim Fishcor board for doing “an amazing job” since last year June by getting immediately involved on the ground, and ensuring that the daily operations were not halted. This continuity, she said, did not make the leadership vacuum from the Fishrot saga so abruptly evident.
Meanwhile, Gaomab recently told the media that the interim Fishcor board has “continued and on a consistent basis during these trying times remained committed to addressing challenges faced at Fishcor with a compassionate and humane understanding of the situation at the moment, whilst cognisant of addressing the strategic, executive and operational challenges currently faced”.
He also stated that Fishcor’s turnaround strategy is in line with the public enterprises ministry’s directive to develop an Integrated Strategic Business Plan (ISBP) for 2020/21.
“The expectation is that the ISBP offers an analytic insight into the enterprise, its ambitions, and plans to achieve such. Fishcor will report against the ISBP on a periodic basis to the minister of public enterprises, explaining deviations against financial and non-financial targets, and as and when necessary, propose for approval by the shareholder representative the adjustment of targets in a well-motivated, informed and transparent manner. The ISBP will instill the much-desired discipline in the management of public enterprises, whereby results-reporting is against clearly defined strategic objectives and targets to facilitate long- overdue accountability management,” said Gaomab at a previous media briefing.